Should You See Your Physician Before You Begin Exercising?

For most people, starting an exercise program of moderate intensity is not a very risky proposition, especially for those who are in pretty good health to begin with.  However, if you have certain medical issues and want to start exercising, you may need to talk to your doctor first.  Here’s what you should know:


When to Check With Your Doctor Before You Start ExercisingMedical Clearance for Exercise

Since I’m not a medical professional, I’ll defer to the recommendations provided by the American College of Sports Medicine on this.  For starters, they recommend using a self-administered questionnaire, the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire.  This is a quick, down and dirty (but useful) screening tool that helps determine whether or not you need to get your doctor’s “ok” before you to begin exercising. Take a look:


Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire

1. Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?

2. Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?

3. In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?

4. Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?

5. Do you have a done or joint problem (for example, back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?

6. Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (for example, water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?

7. Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?


If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, see your doctor before you start becoming much more physically active or before you have a fitness appraisal.

(Source: ACSM – When to See a Physician Before Exercising)


As you can see, answering “yes” to any of those seven questions raises a red flag, indicating that you should check with your doctor before you begin exercising.  On the other hand, if you answered “no” to everything, starting a moderate workout plan without a medical consultation is most likely safe for you.


Additional Risk Factors That Require a Doctor’s Office Visit

In addition to the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you see your physician before engaging in vigorous exercise if two or more of the following coronary risk factors apply:

  • Age (men older than 45, women older than 55)
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family History of Heart Disease
  • Current Smoker
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary Lifestyle

(Source: ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 5th Edition)


Note:  Did you take notice that the risk factors above apply to participating in vigorous exercise?  Even if you’re not planning on doing vigorous exercise, but have any of those risk factors present (even one), I would still check with your physician before starting any exercise activities.  Play it safe – it’s just not worth the risk!



If you suffer from any medical conditions (especially heart-related ones) or are pregnant and want to start exercising, you’ll need to see your doctor first and get their input – plain and simple.  It’s the first order of business you need to address.  A little bit of time and an office co-pay is a very cheap price to pay for something that might eventually save your life.


I hope that helps,


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